Daylight Saving Time (DST) is used to save energy and make better use of daylight. It was first used in 1908 in Thunder Bay, Canada.
First Used in Canada in 1908
In July, 1908, Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada became the first location to use DST. Other locations in Canada were also early to introduce Daylight Saving bylaws.
On April 23, 1914, Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada implemented DST. The cities of Winnipeg and Brandon in Manitoba followed on April 24, 1916. According to the April 3, 1916, edition of the Manitoba Free Press, Daylight Saving Time in Regina “proved so popular that bylaw now brings it into effect automatically”.
Germany First Country to Use DST
Germany became the first country to introduce DST when clocks were turned ahead 1 hour on April 30, 1916. The rationale was to minimize the use of artificial lighting in order to save fuel for the war effort during World War I.
The idea was quickly followed by the United Kingdom and many other countries, including France. Many countries reverted back to standard time after World War I, and it wasn’t until the next World War that DST made its return in most of Europe.
Although DST has only been used for about 100 years, the idea was conceived many years before. Ancient civilizations are known to have engaged in a practice similar to modern DST where they would adjust their daily schedules to the Sun’s schedule. For example, the Roman water clocks used different scales for different months of the year.
American inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay called “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” to the editor of The Journal of Paris in 1784. In the essay, he suggested, although jokingly, that Parisians could economize candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of the natural morning light instead.
Hudson and Willett
In 1895, New Zealand scientist George Vernon Hudson presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society, proposing a two-hour shift forward in October and a two-hour shift back in March. There was interest in the idea, but it was never followed through.
In 1905, independently from Hudson, British builder William Willett suggested setting the clocks ahead 20 minutes on each of the four Sundays in April, and switching them back by the same amount on each of the four Sundays in September, a total of eight time switches per year.
First Daylight Saving Bill
Willett’s Daylight Saving plan caught the attention of Member of Parliament, Robert Pearce, who introduced a bill to the House of Commons in February 1908. The first Daylight Saving Bill was drafted in 1909, presented to Parliament several times and examined by a select committee. However, the idea was opposed by many, especially farmers, so the bill was never made into a law. Willett died in 1915, the year before the United Kingdom started using DST in May 1916.
DST in the United States
In the US, “Fast Time” as it was called then, was first introduced in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law to support the war effort during World War I. The initiative was sparked by Robert Garland, a Pittsburgh industrialist who had encountered the idea in the UK. Today he is often called the “Father of Daylight Saving”.
Only seven months, later the seasonal time change was repealed. However, some cities, including Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York, continued to use it until President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year-round DST in the United States in 1942.
War Time DST
Year-round DST, also called “War Time”, was in force during World War II, from February 9, 1942, to September 30, 1945, in the US and Canada. During this time, the US time zones were called “Eastern War Time”, “Mountain War Time”, “Central War Time”, and “Pacific War Time”. After the surrender of Japan in mid-August 1945, the time zones were relabeled “Peace Time”.
The UK applied “Double Summer Time” during World War II by setting the clocks two hours ahead of GMTduring the summer and one hour ahead of GMT during the winter.
US Uniform Time Act of 1966
From 1945 to 1966 there were no uniform rules for DST in the US and it caused widespread confusion especially for trains, buses, and the broadcasting industry. As a result, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was established by Congress. It stated that DST would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October. However, states still had the ability to be exempt from DST by passing a state ordinance.
Modern DST History in the US
The US Congress extended DST to a period of ten months in 1974 and eight months in 1975, in hopes to save energy following the 1973 oil embargo. The trial period showed that DST saved the energy equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil each day, but DST still proved to be controversial. Many complained that the dark winter mornings endangered the lives of children going to school.
Energy Policy Act of 2005
After the energy crisis was over in 1976, the DST schedule in the US was revised several times throughout the years. From 1987 to 2006, the country observed DST for about seven months each year. The current schedule was introduced in 2007 and follows the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the period by about one month. Today, DST starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.
Daylight Saving Today
Daylight Saving Time is now in use in over 70 countries worldwide and affects over a billion people every year. The beginning and end dates vary from one country to another. In 1996, the European Union (EU) standardized an EU-wide DST schedule, which runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.